Students Staff
University of Essex

7 May 2014

Students can get £5k funding for an innovative idea

Filed under: Information,News — Alex ONeill @ 9:49 am

What Students Really Want – £5k Funding to Improve Student Life

Jisc strongly believe that students should have a prime role in developing novel uses of technology to improve their experience at college or university.

That’s why last year they ran a competition – the Summer of Student Innovation – designed with RLUK, RUGIT, SCONUL and UCISA as part of a co-design approach to innovation within UK education. 21 projects were successfully funded and supported to develop their ideas. Jisc continue to work with six projects to help develop them and explore the possibility of offering them as a shared service for the whole sector.

The Summer of Student Innovation 2014 competition is running again this year and £5k is available for each successful student idea. Students have until the end of May to submit their entries and with Jisc’s help attract votes.

How you can engage with the Summer of Student Innovation:

If you have any questions, please visit the Jisc FAQs page or send them an email. You can also follow #studentideas on Twitter for the latest about the competition.

And don’t forget to tell LTT if any students get funded, we would love to hear all about it!

13 September 2013

Moodle archive now live!

Filed under: Information,MaHoL,Moodle — Marty Jacobs @ 3:17 pm

There is now a “read only” archive of the entire Moodle site for the 2012/2013 academic year. Both students and staff can access the archive by clicking on the link below:

You will only have access to a module if you had access to it on the 9th September 2013, as this is when the archive was created. If you dont have access to a particular module, and you think you should, please contact the Learning Technology Team (email: ltt). We will be archiving Moodle each year from this point forward, and plan to keep five years worth of data (including the current academic year).

We’re offering this service for two main reasons:

  1. To give all students “read only” access to their previous year’s modules.
  2. For data retention, auditing and backup purposes.

The introduction of an archive for Moodle is part of a bigger project we’ve been working on over the Summer (Moodle at the Heart of Learning). The aim of the this project is to promote and encourage the use of Moodle at the University.


17 May 2013


Filed under: Information,News — Catherine McLean @ 12:53 pm

I recently joined the Learning Technology Team as the maternity cover for Alex O’Neill (who is now busy with her daughter who arrived safely towards the end of April) and I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce myself.

It is now the end of my third week as a new member of staff and I think I’ve managed to visit nearly every café or restaurant that the Colchester campus has to offer. Luckily I have also joined the Evolve gym at the Sports Centre to counteract the increase in calorie consumption!

I previously worked at University College London as a Teaching Administrator where I gained a good working knowledge of Moodle and other learning technologies. My role at the University of Essex will cover supporting staff and students in the use of the learning technology systems you use here. For those of you who don’t know, these systems include Moodle, OCS and Listen Again (to name but a few). So if you are an academic who wants to find out about different ways of using technology to deliver your lectures or engage your students more, let us know. Or if you are an administrator who wants to know a bit more about how Moodle can support your students and save you time, please contact us.  Similarly, if you are a student and are having problems using Moodle, OCS, Listen Again or have some comments about any of the Learning Technology systems at the University of Essex, please get in touch.

I look forward to meeting you and helping wherever I can.


8 February 2013

Moodle 2.4 Upgrade

Filed under: Information,Moodle,News — Tags: , , — Benjamin Steeples @ 3:15 pm

Over the weekend of Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th February, we will be taking Moodle out of service whilst we perform a small upgrade ( Moodle should be unavailable from 12noon on Saturday, and will be out of action for a few hours at most.

Like other upgrades, this will improve the security, usability, and reliability of Moodle. Major changes in this new version include:

Performance improvements
Moodle 2.4 is between 5% and 20% faster than Moodle 2.3 (our current version), meaning that all Moodle pages should load up a little quicker.

Changes to Moodle icons
Moodle 2.4 replaces a lot of the standard icons with newer, easier to understand, versions. A preview of the most common icons can be found below, but a full list is available on the Moodle website.

A full list of changes can be found on the following pages:

Upgrade complete!

The Moodle upgrade is now complete. Moodle was unavailable for approximately 90 minutes whilst the upgrade was installed and tested. Thank you all for your patience.

We’ve noticed some minor rendering and layout issues, and we’ll fix these during the week when more people are in the office (it won’t affect Moodle’s availability). If you notice any major problems, please email the Learning Technology Team (email: LTT).

Additional upgrade note

Quite a few people have pointed out bugs with the new version. These mostly relate to links not working as expected (links going to blank screens); some courses appearing to be completely blank; and the navigation block not working as expected. We now believe that the majority of these issues are fixed, however, one elusive issue still remains.

Navigation changes

In Moodle 2.4, the Navigation block behaves slightly differently to before. Clicking on the My courses link will return you to your Moodle home page (similar to My home). In order to expand the list of courses, you should click on the grey > arrow to the left of the My courses text (highlighted below).

We are looking at how we can revert this back to the old behavior, however it is not a trivial task.

28 January 2013

How good data is streamlining e-learning

Filed under: Information — Tags: , , , , — Benjamin Steeples @ 2:44 pm

From the start, one of the mantras of the Learning Technology Team has been to reduce administrative load where at all possible. We’ve now got an ever-growning library of scripts and shortcuts that make our lives a little bit easier each year, but there are still many tasks that are repetitive and laborious; when doing something 100-plus times, you can guarantee that you’ll make a mistake somewhere.

As a separate development, the University has been making advancements with online timetables. These have been available for students for a few years, and this year have been made available to individual staff (ie. teaching timetables). Part of this work has been improving the quality of data; mainly ensuring that the correct teaching staff have been assigned to the correct modules.

What do online timetables have to do with e-learning, I hear you ask. Well, looking at the online timetable data gives us a very good idea of who is actually teaching a module, and in what capacity (lecturer, GTA, etc.). At the start of this academic year we undertook a small project to take this timetable data, and see if we could use it to drive access permissions to our e-learning systems. This would supplement us having to add permissions by hand, reduce the possibility of mistakes (eg. it would also remove permissions when someone stopped teaching a module), and reduce the administrative load for us and academic departments. At the time, we weren’t sure how successful this would be, but now we’re in the second term of the year w are fairly confident that it has worked as intended.

From the autumn term (Oct ’12 onwards) Online Coursework Submission (OCS), Listen Again, and Moodle have automatically assigned access and editing permissions based upon teaching timetables. We’ll be exploring whether we can automatically set permissions on the Course Materials Repository (CMR) later this summer; as part of larger CMR developments.
In terms of what permissions are being assigned, academic staff generally get editing access  (eg. Teacher role in Moodle), and GTAs are assigned read-only access (eg. Non-editing Teacher role in Moodle). Administrative staff aren’t covered by this, and we still assign their permissions by hand. All of these permissions can be overridden, so if we need to give a GTA a higher level of access, we can.

This approach still has some oddities. Since it’s based on teaching timetables, some staff have found themselves on Moodle courses that they barely have any contact with (eg. teaching for one hour in a 25 week module). Similarly, some module supervisors haven’t been given access, as they don’t have any teaching commitments on the module in question; but, as above, this can be overridden. You can help us by checking your online timetable, and informing Central Timetabling (email: CTO) if there are any corrections to be made. Within a day or two, the e-learning systems should adjust your access accordingly.

14 November 2012

You may notice a few more notification emails…

Filed under: Information,OCS — Alex ONeill @ 4:00 pm

As well as a few other OCS bugs that have been reported to us, we have recently released an update which was requested by a number of administrators over the summer. OCS now sends out more notification emails than before to those who have their email in the Notification E-mails box. To summarise, this is when you will now receive an email:

  • At the assignment deadline (as it was before)
  • Seven days after the deadline, if there have been any late submissions (new)
  • For every extended deadline that is reached (new)

Hopefully this should make your lives a bit easier, without you having to set yourself Outlook reminders or keep hitting the refresh button!

21 September 2012

Moodle annoyances

Filed under: Information,Moodle,Moodle 2 upgrade,Newsletter — Tags: , , — Benjamin Steeples @ 12:42 pm

The upgrade to Moodle 2 has gone almost perfectly. Since we upgraded in mid-July, there have been nearly 300,000 interactions with Moodle, and the feedback we’ve been receiving has been generally positive.

I say, ‘almost perfectly’ and ‘generally positive’, as we have encountered some minor issues since we upgraded. Although we did extensive testing over the Spring and Summer terms, these are unfortunately the  ‘unknown unknowns’ that fell through the cracks and were missed. Most of these issues are minor, or have already been fixed, but there are two that are likely to persist into the Autumn term. These are:

Moodle 2 is generally slower than Moodle 1
On average, Moodle 2 is a lot slower than Moodle 1. We’ve already upgraded the Moodle servers an anticipation of this, but there are still some pages that take a painfully long time to load.
In this case, we are asking users to be a little patient with the new version. Opening new tabs or windows in order to do several Moodle tasks in parallel will only make things worse.

Internet Explorer is having problems with Moodle 2
Internet Explorer is struggling on some of the Moodle 2 pages. This mostly effects teachers, who are seeing a Slow script warning when adding users or modifying their courses. But generally, the experience for Internet Explorer users is sub-par.
In this case, we are recommended that affected users look at using an alternative web browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. More information can be found at our Moodle 2 FAQ.

We are doing everything we can to try and fix these issues before the Autumn term begins. We’ve been engaging the Moodle community to raise the profile of these issues, and both of them are in the process of being fixed by MoodleHQ. We’ve been tweaking Moodle ourselves, to try and reduce the occurrence of these problems. Finally, we’ve been in discussion with an external Moodle consultant, who will be checking our Moodle installation, and will hopefully point out any optimisations that we have missed.

We’re aware that these issues are incredibly frustrating for our Moodle users, and hopefully they will be fixed soon. In the mean time, if you encounter any problems, please see our Moodle 2 FAQ or contact us.

22 August 2012

Want to know how to use Twitter in your teaching and research?

Filed under: Information — Alex ONeill @ 9:54 am

The London School of Economics and Political Science have created a free, downloadable resource on how Twitter could be useful to you in your research, teaching and impact activities.

Read it to find out about:

  • Building your following and managing your profile
  • Using Twitter to maximise the impact of your research project
  • Making the most of Twitter alongside your own blog
  • Using course accounts with students
  • A step by step guide to adding a Twitter feed to Moodle
  • Extra resources and links to blog posts and articles on academic blogging and impact

While you’re at it, why not start following the Learning Technology Team on Twitter?

Happy Tweeting!

8 August 2012

Moodle training

Filed under: Information,Moodle,Moodle 2 upgrade — Alex ONeill @ 4:16 pm

If you’re getting a little lost in the new Moodle 2, we are running some more training dates on “What’s new in Moodle 2?” in September. Have a look at our training pages to check the dates and book yourself onto a course.

We are also running some other Moodle courses in the Autumn term – check out what training courses we offer.

Look forward to seeing you there!

2 August 2012

Moodle is now more secure

Filed under: Information,Moodle,Moodle 2 upgrade — Tags: , , — Benjamin Steeples @ 9:19 am

As part of our ongoing improvements to Moodle this summer, we have now enabled some additional security features. This should be fairly seamless for most users, and you’ll see that Moodle is now using a secure connection. However, in some places there may still be references to nonsecure content; don’t be alarmed, this is to be expected.

In order to cope with this, you will need to:


Depending on your web browser, you will be shown a pop-up, similar to the one on the right. This will alert you to the mixed content on the page. The default option will be to ignore the nonsecure content, preventing it from being viewed. However, you should press the other option, to show nonsecure content.


This error will normally occur if you are including content from another website, such as images, or videos. The solution is to check the link, and ensure that it starts with https:// instead of http://. If this doesn’t work, or you are having problems when trying this, please contact the Learning Technology Team.


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